#Tennessee: Mobile clinic brings dental care to #veterans (via @Tennessean)

22 Apr

B9317061405Z.1_20150421185940_000_GI5AIPEGS.1-0

If given the choice between jumping out of a plane or seeing a dentist, Marcus Michael, a former paratrooper, would choose to jump.

His 1:30 p.m. appointment Tuesday at Aspen Dental’s MouthMobile — a tractor-trailer outfitted as a full dentist office — for a deep cleaning and a tooth extraction was his first trip to a dentist in at least five years.

Was Michael, 52, nervous? “Yes,” he laughed, shaking his head. “I can jump out of a plane but motorcycles and needles …”

Aspen Dental, a chain of independent dental practices, launched its MouthMobile tour last year. Nashville was the fourth stop in the MouthMobile’s 28-city tour that started in Phoenix. The bus will embark on another tour in the fall, although it won’t stop in Nashville. The tour is a partnership with Got Your 6, a campaign that works to bring military members and civilians together.

“I feel so grateful. This is not a small thing to me,” he said about the chance to see a dentist.

Michael, 52, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in the early 1980s who was injured when his parachute failed to fully deploy, showed up at Operation Stand Down Tennessee, which hosted the MouthMobile.

Dr. Cecily Williams traveled from Aspen Dental’s Smyrna office to volunteer on the MouthMobile in a 12 South parking lot because it’s very important for all Americans to have dental care, especially the veterans.

“Sometimes they are forgotten,” she said.

Williams and Dr. David Elrod, along with dental hygienists and lab technicians, hoped to 30-50 people in a five-hour clinic. There had been 20 appointment slots, but with the unexpected walk-ups, there was double the demand.

One veteran had eight teeth pulled. The staff could do cleanings, extractions and fillings, if needed. Some patients got referrals to providers that offer affordable pricing for follow-ups. A technician was doing on-site denture repairs — services that often take a week.

Michael, a married father of four, said he’s going to make oral health a priority as part of his recovery from a years-long drug and alcohol addiction. He’s been clean for nine months after getting involved with programs at Operation Stand Down Tennessee.

“I can speak for myself, most people kind of neglect it,” without realizing the impact it can have on the body, including the heart, he said. “I didn’t care at that point. I see the importance of it now.”

The American Dental Association estimates that 150 million Americans — that’s about 47 percent of the population — didn’t see a dentist in 2012. There are many reasons ranging from not having access to a dentist, financial or insurance constraints and transportation issues, as well as fear. In Tennessee more than 90 percent of the counties have a shortage of dental health professionals.

Williams cringed that some who showed up without an appointment might not get examined Tuesday. Aspen Dental will have a free service day on June 27 where branded, participating practices will provide care to those who need it.

“We do this every day — you don’t always have someone crying in the chair, thanking you for doing the work for them,” Williams said.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: